Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Spending Time With God

Col 1.1-9 1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, 2 To the saints and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ in Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father. 3 In our prayers for you we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 4 for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, 5 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. You have heard of this hope before in the word of the truth, the gospel 6 that has come to you. Just as it is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world, so it has been bearing fruit among yourselves from the day you heard it and truly comprehended the grace of God. 7 This you learned from Epaphras, our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf, 8 and he has made known to us your love in the Spirit. 9 For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’ will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God.

Praying through the Colossians starts with being called to God by the words about the being filled with the knowledge of Gods will in wisdom and understanding. Those words made me distinguish between wisdom and understanding. Both are important and yet they are distinct from each other. I understand how to lose weight, cut calories and get active and the fat disappears. Most of us know this, but as attested by the amount of fad diets, junk miracle pills and other pitches against the hard work of simply cutting back on food and moving your body. Wisdom makes move our bodies and eat healthier to make us lean. So too are the fad spiritual diets. The understanding of God’s will is like losing weight… spend time listening to God everyday and love God and love neighbor. Like working out and eating less, we will become closer to God. When I workout and eat better, I am filled with more energy. When I spend time with God and look for Jesus in the eyes of all I meet, I find a deeper sense of joy throughout my life.

Listening to God in the Holy Trinity as I pray through the scriptures forges me into a better person, a more loving person. I pray through them in the knowledge that God wants an abundant life for his creatures. Abundant, not in the fantasy given to us from our culture where abundance of things, money, power or fame; rather an abundance in our relationships to our family, friends and in love. The growing grace within us and bares fruit in love. Like working out, the more I spend time with God in prayer, praying through his word in the understanding God is love and Jesus calls us friends, the more I want to remain in the hands of the Lord.

Last night we went to the Advent Party at church, were we make crafts and ornaments for Christmas. The night ended by hearing Luke’s story of the the birth of Jesus. God was with us, and when we are with God, we find our true self. We learn about the Will of God and then wisdom comes with understanding.


*I have been praying by Lectio Divina through the New Testament. This reflection starts with Colossians starting Col 1.1-9 i

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Fighting Anger

Ephesians 4.25-32

25 So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. 26 Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and do not make room for the devil. 28 Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy. 29 Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. 31 Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, 32 and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.

Speak words of Grace. These words of Paul found in Ephesian speak to me as a writer. Being a writer in the Kingdom has been my call. How to write words of love and Christ in a world bent on anger and violence. Of course anger comes with being human, as Paul notes. What Paul gets at in his riff on anger is that dwelling in anger will create in us a space for the devil and violence to enter. Paul sees anger that extends past the night’s sleep as toxic and the bombings, murders wars and the rest of the day’s news seem to witness to the truth of Paul’s words. Yet, how do we exit from the land of anger?

We are living in a time where material comforts are most widely available, and yet anger seems to increase daily. Politicians use anger to climb the polls. How do we speak words of peace into the endemic rage that has settled into the hearts of humans everywhere. How do we get out of the Kingdom of Wrath and find our place in the Kingdom of God? I remember being a angry young man. My father had abandon my family before I entered into Kindergarten. I direct the anger toward myself and not being good enough to love. And as I continued to live into this anger, the world enclosed into a certain type of Hell. Then, in the coming of the Lord Jesus into my life I learn the secret of exiting my anger and entering into the Kingdom of God.

I called my father after not hearing from him for over 30 years. I place myself onto the cross of forgiveness and then a miracle happened. I return to life. Forgiveness of sins became my ticket out of hell. The rule of Paul’s is a gift. It is the prison break we all need. Jesus forgives us and then grants us the gift to extend forgiveness to those that hurt us. When we reconcile, we reconcile to God and we move a step closer to being the people of God.

Friday, September 9, 2016

One Night in a Coffee Shop

Ephesians 4-17-24 17 

Now this I affirm and insist on in the Lord: you must no longer live as the Gentiles live, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of their ignorance and hardness of heart. 19 They have lost all sensitivity and have abandoned themselves to licentiousness, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20 That is not the way you learned Christ! 21 For surely you have heard about him and were taught in him, as truth is in Jesus. 22 You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

She told me how she hated her father for abandoning the family when she was a girl. All of her relationships with men had been poisoned by his leaving since. She told stories of date rapes and boyfriends in college betraying her with coffee shop poets who pine away to be the next Silvia Plath. She laid all of this misery on the lap of her father who left the family and married her best friend’s mother. Even that friendship had grown bitter as everyone chose sides. The heart hardens when we dwell in our stories. As I listen to her story at that cafe in Vail, I reviewed my own stories. Our impromptu date turned into something else.

I shared how I forgave my father who too abandon my family. By forgiving as God forgives, I found a peace. It is illuminating to see St Paul highlight both ignorance and the hardness of heart as two elements of living that must be over come to grow closer to God. As I prayed through this passage, the long ago conversation came back to me. I was single and had grown attracted to the young woman of woe. Though as we continued, I shared about my forgiving my father and reconnecting with him. I shared my faith with her. It was our last date, as she found no romantic sparks between us. Yet, she did seek me out three weeks later. She said she had called her father and forgave him. It was powerful to soften her heart.

A few years later I had left Vail for seminary. I had forgotten our conversation. I return to visit Vail and to my old friends at my old church, Eagle Vail Presbyterian Church. There to my surprise was the same woman. She had joined with her new husband. Forgiveness has a long reach and when we enter it with Jesus, a new life reforms out of our old stories. She had found God in her act of forgiveness. The lusts for revenge were replaced with a reconciliation to those who had hurt her.

She told me that I had made a big difference in her life in our conversation. I said no, it was Jesus who showed us both how to transcend our mutual pain and bring us both a new life. I shook hands with her husband. Love makes us new again.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Ligament of Love

Ephesians 4.9-16 9 
(When it says, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended[a] into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.) 11 The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. 14 We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. 15 But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.

Ligament of love sounds like a bad romance moving, like some when the guy seems all wrong and then turns out to be the love of the girl’s life after some misadventures. But after “ligament of love: came to me in praying through Ephesians 4.9-16 it became so much more of an insight that has the power to transform. Paul In Ephesians 4 asked us to live a life worthy of the Gospel of Jesus. To do so means the very counter-cultural practice of humility and gentleness. We are taught to be self confident and powerful rather than recognizing the truth of being mere mortal who will face the grave. Humility starts with the understanding the truth of our bless of our lives. We were born to life without our consent and we all have to leave life and no amount of exercise and eating right will change the reality of decay.

We also have to rely on our parents for the first part of our lives to live. Then, as we grow, we need the bonds of others to make throughs the journey and adventure of life. The same-made individual is a pretty lie we tell ourselves to pretend to be the God of our lives. Yet, the truth eludes us in this pretty little lie. To live a life worthy of love we have to work to maintain the unity of the Spirit as there is one Spirit, one Lord, one community which we are part of. Love is the bond or the ligament that holds the whole together stitching muscle to bone. None of our gifts do as any good unless they are in the service of love. No amount of money, fame or power will change the equation. We need love to live a life worthy of glory. To be part of this great body of love, we have to embrace humility and gentleness. If the are to be attached to the ligament of love, we have to face the truth. We are not the God of our stories. In any of the roles we are called to play, be they teacher, preacher, evangelist, prophet, or even apostle, we are called to the honesty of humility and the grace of gentleness.

We are not the head of the church. Jesus is. We are called to love in unity no matter how hard it can get. And it can get hard. When my son lost his eye to his tumor condition, I knew it would be tough to love others. Just yesterday, as he was swimming with a new friend, a little girl of 6 years, I had to learn again and pray to God to build more muscle on the ligament of love attached to Jesus. He had his googles on and she could see his missing eye, them he took them off and she freaked out. He then put back his googles per her requests and said for him never to to take off his googles again. The hardness raise had to find it within myself to love the little girl, even as she hurt my son. I saw in her my own habit of trying to be God and the damage it causes.

Only when we see we have no choice in our births or death and the only way through life is love, can we hear the Gospel. Only when I attach to God can I build the muscle of love, for my love needs the ligament of Jesus to build on.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Efforts of a Toddler

Ephesians 4:1-9 
 I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. 7 But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore it is said, “When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive; he gave gifts to his people.”

As I meditated on this passage what struck me was “making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit.” Here Paul says that it is hard work to maintain unity… something that anyone that has spent time in the church or with human beings, knows takes effort… and he says that this is a spiritual practice. He gives us the tools in the previous verse in that we have to make the effort to be humble and gentle with patience we bear one another in love. Many times in myself I have the thought that church would be great if it was not for this guy or that guy. Yet, the effort is not with me changing the other guy but allowing Christ Jesus to change and transform me into a more humble and loving guy. I think this the greatest challenge within the Gospel… letting go of my wanting to be God and allow God to change me. When we allow God to work on us, then we start to live worthy of God’s calling.

Usually, we think of calling in terms of vocation. God is calling us to ministry, we say, meaning becoming a professional teacher, preacher or missionary, which there is a certain amount of truth to say so. Yet calling here in this passage goes deeper and expands calling from what we do for a living to our whole being and identity in Christ. Living a live worth our calling is living a life where we bear one another in love. We take the time for one another and we gather in the name of Jesus in all of our interactions and encounters with everyone.

In all human interaction arise the potential to encounter God. The person who is working customer care over the phone at our local utility. The guy that annoys at church who you are not to certain about because he spouts crazy conspiracy theories about bar codes. In all encounters, we have the possibility of discovering the revealed risen Lord who is always with us until the end of the age. When we find Jesus in all of our interactions with others, we have confront our own limitations and weakness or in other words humility forces itself on us. I am not the God who can save, but can point to the God who can. When we find God, we find how he dealt with us gently and we can extend such gentleness to others. Yes, it takes effort and the Gospel is not an invitation to live in autopilot with God handling the controls, but God graciously allows our efforts life a father who lets his son experiment with legos and doesn’t step to show him the right way to do it. We grow in love and Christ due to the effort. Will we fail to bear one another in love. Yes. But God picks up the fallen toddler we are and allows us to try again in forgiveness. We learn and we become closer to others and God.